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Broccoli, cabbage? - nutrition for hormones balance

Updated: Nov 25, 2022



Brassicae family (cruciferous)


Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, horseradish and many other belong to cruciferous family (Brassicae). The family name comes from the shape of their petals, which resembles a cross. All cruciferous vegetables come from a small plant Brassica oleracea - wild cabbage. Through natural genetic modifications, its flowers gave the beginning for broccoli, buds - for Brussel's sprouts and roots - for kohlrabi.

Full list of cruciferous vegetables:

Arugula, Bok choi Broccoli, Broccoli, Brussels sprout, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Collard greens, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard – seeds and leaves, Pak choi, Radish, Rutabaga, Turnips – root and greens, Wasabi, Watercress.


What is fascinating about these vegetables?


Scientist are finding plenty of amazing properties of cruciferous vegetables. Many researches show that eating them can lower cancer risk, regulate hormonal balance, regulate genes expression or act as anti-oxidants. Last research from 2018 shows that it can also prevent depression. Brassica are also great source of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre. Natural medicine uses the anti-inflammatory properties topically in order to reduce swelling, also for breast engorgement during lactation. (It works - I checked personally :) )

Glucosinolates (including glucoraphanin) present in cruciferous vegetables are responsible for their fantastic properties. Glucosinolates contain sulphur compounds which give specific bitter and tart taste, what can be tasted while eating Brussels sprout or arugula. They are activated directly by an enzyme called myrosinase, which is activated during chewing or chopping. The role of glucosinolates and myrosinase is to protect the vegetables from pathogens.

And how do the substances act on our genes? It is explained by epigenetics, which explains changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression by external environment rather than changes in the DNA sequence itself.

Glucosinolates, activated by myrosinase, are an example of such environmental factor and regulate enzyme, which then, have impact on genes to be activated or not. This also explains why cruciferous vegetables are investigated in terms of prevention and treatment of cancer. A research shows that eating min 5 portions of cruciferous vegetables (portion = 1/2 a cup) can reduced cancer risk.

Indole-3-carbinol is one kind of glucosinolates acting on oestrogen activity in our body. Oestrogen has few biochemical forms, and the most potent is also responsible for development of breast cancer. Indole-3-carbinol, by activating specific enzymes, activates the less potent one (2-hydroxyestrogene), mitigating production of the more severe one (16-hydroxyestrogene). This is important not only for cancer prevention but also with regards to hormonal imbalances with oestrogen dominance. Indole-3-carbinole is also a potent antioxidant capturing free radicals in our body.

Substances present in Brassica family support also both phases of liver detoxification, helping to remove toxins (also too much oestrogen) from the body. Fiber from the vegetables helps further to remove too much oestrogen. Bitter taste stimulates production of digestive juices.

Sulphorafanes (compounds which are a product of glucoraphanin metabolism) can help to protect stomach lining, as they prevent Helikobakter Pylorii adhesion to stomach walls (mostly present in cabbage and cauliflower). Dr G. Cheney from Stanford University has treated successfully 100 patients with stomach ulcers prescribing them 4 glasses of cabbage juice a day.

Sulphorafanes can also prevent cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and autism.

The highest amount of glucosinolates can be found in Brussels sprouts, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.


Other nutritional values


Broccoli are a very good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium, folate and magnesium. They contain high level of insoluble fibre, which feeds our intestine microbiome and improves bowel movements, helping also to remove oestrogen.


What about bloating?


Some people may say that they have difficulties to digest cruciferous vegetables, ending up with bloating. My friend does not eat any such vegetables before a date. Bloating after cabbage, cauliflower or other veggies from this family are caused by oligosaccharides (particularly rafinase). When our intestine flora is impaired, oligosaccharides do not get digested in our small intestine and become a target for bacterias in our colon, leading to their fermentation and gases. This can be improved by supporting our gut microbiome, which is impaired everyday by taking antibiotics (also from food sources as meat or dairy) and other medication, as well as bad diet and stress.

There are information that cruciferous vegetables can be goitrogenic, impairing thyroid function. If someone wants to be conscious the person should avoid these vegetables in row form - best would be cooking or steaming in order to still introduce these beneficial and important vegetables in the diet.


How to get most benefits from Brassica family?


1) Min 5 portions a week (1 portion - 1/2 cup)

2) Eat diversity of this vegetables, not only broccoli or cabbage, including also broccoli or radish sprouts.

3) Include also fermented cabbage: sauerkraut, kimchi.

4) Chop and chew properly in order to activate myrosine and glucosinolates, to strengthen the healing potential.

5) Preferably steaming, what leaves the highest amount of nutrients.

6) Add olive oil in order to absorb better water-soluble vitamins K and A.

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